Throughout my experience at the University of Alberta, I have been the most paranoid exam writer. I have the worst test anxiety but I’ve slowly discovered that if I follow a specific and elaborate routine before and during every exam, my nerves don’t get the best of me. And because of that, I have gotten so much better at writing exams that my marks are there to prove it! So here are some of my beloved tips that I hope will help you as much as they have helped me!
Sit in the very front row at a corner desk
When walking into an exam, I always book it to the front. I love the corner desk in the front because there are no distractions ahead of you. I get distracted so easily so I love having just a wall to stare at!
This also helps immensely with distractions. I put my earplugs in and suddenly I am in my own little world and I am able to hear myself think and concentrate fully on the test in front of me. If there’s one thing that can throw me off while writing a test, it’s hearing people crack their knuckles which everyone always seems to do during an exam. Sigh.
Have water, tissues, lip balm, and gum nearby
I always like to be fully prepared so I like to have my essentials with me in case something goes wrong during the test. Water helps me relax, tissues are there in case I have to blow my nose, lip balm is for my chapped lips which can always distract me, and gum is there to chew on during the exam (because I’ve that gum chewing is supposed to help memory retention - but that might be just an urban legend)!
Arrive 30 minutes early, but don’t study
I like to eliminate all possible causes of stress before an exam. And if one thing stresses me out, it’s being late. So, to overcome that, I always make sure I have ample time before an exam, but I make sure not to cram. I might read over my notes once but I take that time to mostly relax and chill out. Listen to some pump-up music and try to put those nerves away.
If you get stuck on a question, simply put it away and go to the next one
If I don’t know a question, I tend to panic so I try to stay as calm as I can until I have finished all the questions that I definitely know. Then, I go back and tackle the harder ones when I’m more relaxed and know I am almost finished the test.
Bring multiples of pencils, pens, calculators, highlighters, erasers
It’s the worst thing in the world to run out of ink during a test. Actually, I wouldn’t know because I never have. That’s because I always bring multiples of everything so I feel very prepared.
Wear lots of layers
Scarves and cardigans are the best - I am very sensitive to temperatures during my exams so I always make sure to wear layers that I can either put on or take off if I get too hot or cold. I need to be at my perfect temperature in order to concentrate.
Dress as cute as you can
I never understood the people who wear sweatpants and hoodies to exams. My motto is look good, feel good. I always dress cute so even if I fail an exam, I’m still looking hella bomb. (But if you need to be extra comfy, you just do you fellow student.)
Un-staple exam pages (if you’re allowed)
This tip is especially helpful for mathematical or written exams. I always feel more calm if I can un-staple the pages and work on just one page at a time instead of flipping through the booklet. I don’t know why this tip helps me so much, but it does. (Editor’s Note: Check and maybe even double check with your instructor before doing this…. Just in case they don’t like it.)
Take your time and wear a watch
Always know how much time you have to complete the exam and write your test accordingly. Don’t go too fast, don’t go too slow. Always be sure to leave yourself lots of time at the end to focus on any questions that you don’t know. And always wear a watch in case you can’t see the clock. That way, you don’t have to keep constantly looking up and don’t have to worry about being reliant on your phone (which shouldn’t be out during an exam).
I hope you find yourself incorporating these tips when writing your midterms and final exams. They really do help at taking some of the uncertainty out of test taking. If I feel in control of my writing environment, then I feel more in control of the test in general and that definitely helps my nerves. I know that a lot of these tips might seem silly and I definitely agree, but they have totally changed my exam-writing skills, so for that, I am very thankful!
Taylor is in her fourth year, trying out her third faculty. After getting a taste of Sciences and Education, she decided Business was truly the faculty for her. When she is not studying for that elusive 4.0 GPA, you can find her glued to her computer, writing a new post on her personal style & beauty blog, when-im-older.com. And if she gets bored of that, you can most definitely bet she’s busy taking countless Snapchats of her Goldendoodle, Oakley.